Local and Regional Conservation & Management for the Columbia Wetlands

The Columbia Wetland System, which stretches 180 km along the Rocky Mountain Trench from Canal Flats in the south to the head of the Mica Reservoir just north of Donald, is one largest wetland complexes in British Columbia and provides important ecological services to the Columbia Valley and beyond. The land tenure is complex mix of public and private lands. As a result of ecological importance of the Columbia Wetlands and the variety of land tenures, their management is multifaceted involving many different jurisdictions.

The Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partnership (CWSP) has compiled a database of reports related to the Columbia Wetlands. The database and this management plan review have identified almost 100 management plans related to the Columbia Wetlands. These include various land and/or water management, strategy, or action plans such as wildlife management area plans; park plans; invasive plant and pest management plans; official community plans; land use plans; and species management and recovery plans. A holistic review of all of these management plans and their implementation status would help identify which plans have the most impact on wetland protection, gaps and opportunities, and how CWSP Partners can collaborate to support common conservation goals.

The specific objectives of this management plan review were to: create a list of the management plans in the CWSP database and identify any missing plans; identify the key plans that have the most significant potential impact on management of the wetlands; and for the key plans provide a summary of the management goals and objectives, and implementation status.

For more information and to view the Synthesis of Local and Regional Conservation & Management Goals & Objectives for the Columbia Wetlands click on document below.




Living Lakes Canada to attend 9th annual Canadian Water Summit

The “Blue Economy” is an emerging concept encouraging better stewardship of water resources that will be the focus of the 9th annual Canadian Water Summit to be held in Vancouver June 20-22.

As part of its exploration of the theme “Knowledge to Practice—Applying Science, Policy, and Research to the Blue Economy”, this year’s three-day Summit will feature an eye-opening session on innovation in water governance across jurisdictional and cultural boundaries that will involve the Kootenay Lake Partnership and Ktunaxa First Nation with support from Living Lakes Canada.

“The Kootenay Lake Partnership recently developed precedent setting shoreline development guidelines for Kootenay Lake,” said Heather Leschied of Living Lakes Canada, who also serves as Chair of the Kootenay Lake Partnership. She went on to note, “this multi-agency partnership took an innovative approach to a Federal protocol for mapping and classifying sensitive shoreline habitats, by integrating ecological, archaeological and Ktunaxa Nation cultural values.”

At last year’s Canadian Water Summit in Toronto, Living Lakes Canada received two Water’s Next awards. Executive director Kat Hartwig won “Water Steward of the Year” and “People – NGO category”. LLC Photo


Presenting on behalf of the Ktuanxa Nation and Kootenay Lake Partnership will be Craig Paskin, the Manager of Policy and Planning with the Ktunaxa Nation Council’s Lands and Resource Agency, who will be highlighting the efforts of the Kootenay Lake Partnership to support collaborative management approaches for a productive and healthy Kootenay Lake ecosystem. Kootenay Lake is the first project of its kind aimed at protecting and restoring important fish and wildlife habitats, while ensuring archaeological values and Ktunaxa cultural values are considered and protected during the planning and permit application process.

Featured each year as part of the Summit is the Water’s Next national awards program, which honours the achievements and ideas of individuals and companies that successfully work to advance water stewardship in Canada. Last year at the 8th annual Canadian Water Summit held in Toronto, Living Lakes Canada executive director Kat Hartwig won two of the 12 Water’s Next awards — the “Water Steward of the Year” award and the “People – NGO category” — for the work the LLC team has done over the years, including a national scan in partnership with Simon Fraser University and the University of Acadia to assess the state of community-based water monitoring across Canada and build a national dialogue around best practices in CBWM.

The Summit attracts over 300 attendees from the business, government, academic, and non-profit sectors each June, making it Canada’s largest and most diverse annual gathering of water leaders.

Follow Living Lakes Canada’s perspective of the event at #CdnWaterSummit.

To learn more about the Canadian Water Summit, visit https://watersummit.ca.


Living Lakes Canada applauds Teck for publicly releasing water quality reports

The following press release was issued by Teck Coal Limited on June 11. Teck operates five steelmaking coal mines in the Elk Valley of British Columbia, which employ over 4,000 people. See below for a statement by Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig on the company’s decision to publicize its reports on water quality and aquatic health monitoring in the Elk River watershed. The decision re-affirms the need to have open, accessible data, as per the efforts of the Columbia Basin Water Data Hub dialogue, and industry plays a key role in this. 

Sparwood, B.C. — Teck is making available the data and results of ongoing water quality research and monitoring undertaken as part of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan to broadly share the knowledge and information gained through this work.

The company reports in a June 11 press release it spends about $15 – $18 million a year on water quality and aquatic health studies and monitoring. Making this information more broadly available will help advance community knowledge and understanding and accelerate the pace of scientific progress and innovation in this area.

Aquatic monitoring in the Elk Valley. LLC Photo

The reports were prepared by professional scientists and represent the knowledge developed since 2014 when the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan was approved.

“Overall, the report findings confirm that the targets for selenium and other substances established in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan are appropriate and protective of aquatic life. They also indicate that while concentrations of selenium and other substances are generally trending as expected, they are not affecting fish populations,” Teck stated.

“Effects on the percentage of some types of benthic invertebrates (certain types of mayflies) have been observed in specific downstream areas and further study work is being undertaken to determine the cause.”

The company said it is focused on continued monitoring and research, and taking the necessary steps to implement the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan and protect aquatic health across the watershed.

“Water quality is very important to communities, indigenous groups, and the more than 4,000 Teck employees in the Elk Valley,” said Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs. “A lot of work continues to go into understanding water quality and aquatic health in the Elk River watershed, and we are pleased to share our data. We believe these reports will help people see the efforts underway to better understand and manage water quality in the area.”The reports have been reviewed by the Environmental Monitoring Committee (EMC), a group that provides science-based and Ktunaxa Traditional Knowledge advice and input to Teck and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding monitoring designs and reports in the Elk Valley.

The committee includes representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Interior Health Authority, Teck, and an independent scientist.

Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair: “The Ktunaxa Nation Council is very pleased to learn that Teck will be providing public access to water-related environmental monitoring reports on their website. There have been significant impacts to water in Qukin ʔamaʔkis (Elk Valley) due to coal mining, and transparency and a shared understanding of the current situation across Indigenous, provincial, federal and state governments is important. The value and significance of water to the Ktunaxa Nation and in Qukin ʔamaʔkis cannot be understated, and a shared understanding allows for meaningful discussions on next steps to address impacts to water.”

Living Lakes Canada’s Executive Director Kat Hartwig: “We were pleased to learn that Teck is sharing the water quality data that they have publicly. Transparency from all sectors, including industry, is essential for more effective collaboration amongst First Nations and non-First Nations government, academia and community groups in order to address water quality and quantity challenges which are only intensifying with climate change. This good first step will eventually align with the open source Water Data Hub currently being discussed for the Columbia Basin.”

The reports have previously been shared with regulators and the Ktunaxa Nation Council and have been used to inform the implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. The report findings have also been summarized on an annual basis in the Environmental Monitoring Committee Public Report. Teck is committed to releasing future reports as they are developed, following review, input and advice from the EMC.

Electronic copies of the reports can be found at www.teck.com/elkv

Living Lakes International turns 20!

Today — June 11, 2018 — is the 20th birthday of the international Living Lakes Network. The network was launched 20 years ago today at a press conference in Los Angeles, USA with the four founding members Lake Constance (Germany, Switzerland, Austria), Mono Lake (USA), Lake St. Lucia (South Africa), and Lake Biwa (Japan).  Global Nature Fund is the coordinator of this vivid partnership that currently consists of 109 member lakes, represented by 126 organizations in 54 countries.

In 2010, Wildsight, with the participation of the Global Nature Fund and the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, established Living Lakes Canada to unite lake associations and water stewardship groups throughout Canada.

Living Lakes Canada is proud to be a part of Living Lakes International’s global network of non-government associations that share the mission to enhance the protection, restoration and rehabilitation of lakes, rivers, wetlands and watersheds throughout the world.

Learn more about Living Lakes International here.

Living Lakes Canada encourages Basin communities to attend Columbia River Treaty meetings

Lake Koocanusa is a reservoir formed by the Libby Dam that’s a part of the Columbia River Treaty. LLC Photo

Starting in the 1930s, the construction of dams on the Columbia River transformed a wild waterway into a controlled system of reservoirs managed by the largest international flood control and power generation agreement between Canada and the United States known as the Columbia River Treaty (CRT).

On May 29, 2018, negotiations began between Canada and the U.S. to renew the CRT, and a series of Community Meetings to gather public input is slated to start in the Columbia Basin on June 11. According to Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig, it’s time “to look beyond just the river.”

Hartwig attended a special one-day symposium on the future of the CRT on May 28 in Victoria, B.C. as part of the CWRA 2018 National Conference (Canadian Water Resources Association).

“The negotiations are seen as opportunity to modernize the CRT, and that greater emphasis should be placed on watershed-based ecosystem function and health,” she said. “Living Lakes Canada (LLC) is interested in the monitoring and health of the tributaries and high elevation lakes that feed into the Columbia River. Climate-related increased glacial melt will impact the amount and timing of water contributing to the river, which is both relevant to the CRT dialogue, as well as the understanding of the health of the watershed as a whole.”

Out of the symposium came pressing recommendations for the CRT negotiations. Namely, to restore wild stock salmon (in support of the united transboundary First Nations and Tribes calling for the return of salmon to the Upper Columbia); to re-establish a more natural river system through ecosystem-based management that includes local community leaders, First Nations/Tribes, and other key stakeholders; to commit to a holistic view of the Columbia River as if no borders existed; to address climate change through developing more resiliency for aquatic and riparian communities; and to create a binational science panel to oversee comprehensive water quality and ecosystem based monitoring programs and scientific investigations.

“Living Lakes Canada is encouraging people to attend the CRT Community Meetings in June to get a better understanding why community-based water monitoring is important if a modernized treaty is going to take ecosystem health into account,” said Hartwig.

The Columbia River Treaty Community Meeting series is hosted by the provincial government and will take place at nine locations in the Upper Columbia Basin between June 11 and 21. The meetings will provide an update on Columbia River Treaty negotiations between Canada and the United States, and host discussions on important community interests that should be considered during the negotiations.

“A renewed treaty needs to examine environmental flows for fish which means understanding what is happening in the tributaries, and this data collection can and is being collected in collaboration with First Nations and non-First Nations community-based water monitoring groups,” Hartwig said..

For locations and dates of the community meetings, visit http://engage.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty/.

New report sheds light on Watershed Governance in the Columbia Basin

If you’re involved in watershed stewardship and management at any level in the Columbia Basin—as a community volunteer, a non-profit volunteer, a First Nation representative, or local government official—a new report is available highlighting current watershed governance issues, opportunities and successes in the Basin.

Called Community Engagement in Watershed Governance: Case Studies and Insights From the Upper Columbia River Basin, the report highlights how community-based organizations in the Basin are supporting watershed health. The report also offers information about water governance and B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act.

Produced by Living Lakes Canada, Columbia Basin Trust and the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project, the report explores:

  • The meaning of watershed governance
  • Local watershed protection and B.C.’s new Water Sustainability Act
  • How four local watershed groups have contributed to water governance
  • Insights from the experiences of others in the Basin

The report examines these four watershed groups:

  • Kootenay Lake Partnership
  • Lake Windermere Ambassadors
  • East Kootenay Integrated Lake Management Partnership
  • Elk River Alliance

Download the report here.

If you have questions about this report, contact Wendy Horan, Manager, Environment, Columbia Basin Trust, at whoran@cbt.org.

Learn to monitor stream health: CABIN training in Nelson, July 17-18

We all want healthy streams. Streams are living systems that affect the water we drink, the food we eat, the well-being of fish and wildlife, and the economy through fishing and other outdoor recreation.

Assessing the health of a stream can be done by counting the number of insects living in it — specifically, benthic macroinvertebrates (the backboneless bugs that are generally visible to the naked eye that live on the bottom of streams).

In Canada, a national protocol called CABIN (Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network) has been established that collects benthic macroinvertebrates and uses their counts as an indicator of a water body’s health.

Living Lakes Canada (LLC) is the only Canadian NGO trained by Environment and Climate Change Canada to train community groups, professionals, industry and First Nation communities in the CABIN methodology, which is the most widely used national protocol to assess the health of streams.

This summer, LLC will be holding a CABIN field practicum in Nelson, B.C. on July 17 and 18 that is open to the public.

Living Lakes Canada CABIN training in Nelson in 2017.

“Community-based water monitoring (CBM) is emerging across Canada as an untapped potential to help solve pressing challenges associated with watershed management,” said LLC Water Stewardship Lead Raegan Mallinson. “Living Lakes Canada trains citizen scientists in community-based monitoring because citizens are concerned and want to ensure that their lakes, rivers, wetlands and watersheds remain healthy and that their communities are climate resilient. They want to be involved in the decisions that affect their local watersheds including source water protection, drinking water quality, resource development and sustainable water and land use.”

Living Lakes Canada learns from experience in the field and through mentoring from Canada’s top water scientists to develop and deliver successful citizen science, community-based water monitoring initiatives. Indigenous communities have been monitoring or “watching the land and water” for generations by collecting observations combined with traditional knowledge passed on from Elders. Both indigenous and non-indigenous community-based water monitoring present enormous and cost-effective opportunities to empower communities to work collaboratively with governments and industry for holistic water management.

“The CABIN training program provides the knowledge and skills required to conduct a biomonitoring program to CABIN standards,” said Raegan.

Participants who receive CABIN training take part in a two-day CABIN field practicum that provides instruction for the standardized data collection techniques. Depending on the level of training that the participant chooses to undergo — from Field Technician to Program Manager — various modules are required to access and use the CABIN database. The CABIN database provides trainees with tools to store and manage their data and studies, and a suite of online analysis and reporting tools.

“Join us in the streams of the West Kootenay to learn how to create and carry out your own biomonitoring program to assess the health of your surrounding freshwater ecosystems,” said Raegan.

For more information on CABIN training levels, modules, cost and to register for LLC’s Nelson CABIN training, visit http://canadianriversinstitute.com/training/cabin/; and visit the Nelson CABIN training event page on Facebook here.

Living Lakes Canada CABIN training in Parksville in 2017.

Join us for a Groundwater Workshop at Wings 2018

What is groundwater and why do we monitor it?

Discover why groundwater monitoring is vital to community planning in the face of climate change in this Wings Over the Rockies workshop.

Living Lakes Canada’s Raegan Mallinson and Invermere area volunteer Buzz Harmsworth collecting groundwater data for the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program. Photo by Heather Leschied

Groundwater, one of our most important yet least known natural resources, will be explored during an illuminating workshop at this year’s Wings Over the Rockies festival.

According to the 2017 Columbia Basin Trust report Water Monitoring and Climate Change in the Upper Columbia Basin: A Summary of Current Status and Opportunities by Dr. Martin Carver, the effects of climate change on groundwater resources in the Columbia Basin remains unclear due a lack of mapping, monitoring, and analysis.

On May 11 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Pynelogs Cultural Centre in Invermere, join Living Lakes Canada and Canadian geophysicist/engineer Paul Bauman for a discussion on the interconnectedness of groundwater within our global system.

During the workshop, learn about aquifers in the Columbia Basin, the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program (the first citizen science groundwater monitoring program in B.C.), other water monitoring initiatives, and how groundwater relates to the new Water Sustainability Act.

This is also an opportunity to tell us about your water source and any related concerns to help Living Lakes Canada develop and expand the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program.

“Given climate change, we expect groundwater to become an even more important resource, both as source water for humans and as a contributor to base river flows in times of drought,” says Living Lakes Canada Groundwater Monitoring Program Manager Carol Luttmer.

The workshop will not only pinpoint groundwater investigations taking place here in the Columbia Basin, but also in far-flung Northern Uganda where Paul Bauman, a Living Lakes Canada advisor, was part of a team to train the local people how to repair and maintain their water systems after two decades of civil war.

The cost of the workshop is just $15.

To register for “Connections Down Under – Groundwater in the Columbia Basin & Beyond with Paul Bauman & Carol Luttmer”, visit https://www.wingsovertherockies.org/events/event-details/connections-down-under—groundwater-in-the-columbia-basin-_-beyond-with-paul-bauman,-heather-leschied-_-carol-luttmer/663 and select “Book Now”.

If you would like more information or to discuss groundwater monitoring in your community, contact Carol directly at carol@livinglakescanada.ca.

A “hands-on” education project to train Ugandan students to look for water in the most desperate of the Acholi villages in Gulu district, as well as to train Acholi students, led by Calgary, AB geophysicist Paul Bauman, supported by five geophysicist volunteers from Alberta, The Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG,) Geoscientists Without Borders (GWB) Foundation, IsraAID. Paul Bauman

Proceedings of Columbia Basin water framework conference now available

Columbia Basin, February 14, 2018 – On November 29 & 30, 2017 in Invermere, a two-day conference attended by 120 water experts, residents and guests was convened by Living Lakes Canada, Columbia Basin Trust, the Columbia Basin Watershed Network and Selkirk College to explore solutions in response to a February 2017 Columbia Basin Trust report by Dr. Martin Carver (titled Water Monitoring and Climate in the Upper Columbia Basin, Summary of Current Status and Opportunities) that revealed inadequate Columbia Basin water data for managing and protecting the region’s water resources in response to climate change.

The focus of the conference — CRACKING THE CODE IN 3D — was to envision a Water Monitoring Framework that would coordinate water data collection within the Basin, an endeavour particularly relevant to the region’s higher-volume users such as communities and municipalities, hydropower operators, agricultural producers, industrial operations, ski resorts (snowmaking), as well as commercial and residential users. Additionally, conference participants discussed the development of a Columbia Basin Water Data Hub, a digital access point to store Columbia Basin open access water data in a way that supports decision-making across all levels.

Scientists, government officials, industry staff, community groups, First Nations, and technology experts presented best practices examples of water monitoring initiatives, water data hubs and community-based water monitoring from B.C., across Canada and the U.S. A shared understanding about water monitoring frameworks and water data storage needs was coupled with broad agreement that both a Framework and an open access Data Hub are required to meet the needs within the Basin, and that now is the time to move this forward.

“If we intend to address some of the climate-imposed water challenges that will impact ecosystems, communities and industries in the Basin, then we will need to all work together in a much more collaborative, innovative, timely and cost-effective manner,” said Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig, “and hopefully the outcomes of this conference will be a catalyst for just that.”

Though several challenges were noted by conference participants, such as data ownership and “open” access – a broad ranging topic that includes intellectual property rights, respecting sensitive data such as traditional ecological knowledge, increased access to government and industry data (i.e. environmental assessment projects) and clarity about the meaning of ‘open’ data versus public data — there was  consensus that a collaborative open water data platform for the Basin, free of charge and available to everybody, is technologically feasible.

For the full Conference Summary, visit: http://livinglakescanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Columbia-Water-Data-Hub-2017-Conference-Summary-FINAL.pdf

For the shorter Executive Summary, visit: http://livinglakescanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Water-Data-Hub-Executive-Summary.pdf

International Community-Based Water Monitoring Experiences: COLOMBIA

Canadian experiences in community-based water monitoring were recently shared in Columbia as part of the Building the Extractive Sector Governance in Colombia (Comunica) project, which Agriteam Canada Consulting Ltd. is implementing on behalf of Global Affairs Canada.

Raegan Mallinson, Water Stewardship Lead with Living Lakes Canada, was one of two Canadian experts who travelled to Colombia to take part in the National Forum for Watershed Keepers gathering in Pereira, Colombia from November 14th-16th, 2017, which Comunica held in partnership with the National Environmental Ministry in Colombia (MADS). She was joined by Gila Somers with the Government of the Northwest Territories.

With a focus on vulnerable populations including children, youth, women, rural and indigenous populations, the forum was an invaluable learning opportunity for community members, government officials, technical professionals and academia.

Experiences of community-based monitoring in Canada, including program development, technology, equipment and current protocols were shared with 50 regional representative watershed keepers from across Colombia.

On behalf of Living Lakes Canada, Raegan was on hand to discuss Living Lakes Canada’s involvement with Living Lakes International as well as the Colombian Living Lakes member group at Lake Tota. Other Living Lakes Canada activities that she covered included: Living Lakes Canada’s involvement with the release of the Canadian National Citizen Science Freshwater Monitoring Program in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund-Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and University of Guelph; and the field testing of the new environmental DNA protocol to make benthic data collection more affordable, accurate and efficient.

Raegan also shared water quality monitoring program case studies from the Upper Athabasca watershed in Northern Alberta to the Flathead and Columbia valleys in British Columbia using the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) protocol as successful community-based monitoring examples; and the inclusion of Traditional Knowledge through a language preservation Pilot Project launched last summer in partnership with Ktunaxa Nation using the CABIN protocol.

Following the Forum, the Canadian experts travelled to Bogota to share experiences with governance officials, including the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the National Agency of Environmental Licenses.

The recently released National Biomonitoring program was released in draft form and discussed for possible inclusion in future community-based monitoring programs in Colombia.

Travelling to Putumayo, the Canadian experts then met with local community monitors, local technical institutes and local governors to exchange community-based monitoring experiences and share what environmental concerns face communities in Canada. In turn, the Canadians learned of the water pollution concerns in the Putumayo region.

LLC’s Raegan Mallinson with local community-based water monitors in Putumayo, Colombia.

There was great interest in water monitoring training by all community members, who understood there were many steps needed to develop a program and the necessary capacity needed, but were keen and interested all the same.

Rounding out their trip, the Canadian experts met with the Ambassador of Canada in Colombia for a water quality monitoring demonstration with local representatives to showcase what they had learned in the workshops and the success of the program in the preliminary stages. The demonstration included a water blessing ceremony for everyone to participate in, held by local Indigenous leaders and assistants, and the event proved to be a great cultural exchange between the Canadians and Colombians present.

Community-based monitoring (CBM) helps people understand current threats to freshwater including use, pollution and climate change. Training citizens to become citizen scientists empowers local community members to become more involved and better able to understand their surroundings.

Living Lakes Canada recently released a co-authored national CBM case study, Realizing the Potential of Community Based Monitoring in Assessing the Health of Our Waters, where the universal challenges for CBM were outlined which included: ensuring credible data, connecting Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Science, engaging and motivating citizens, data accessibility and aggregation, and informing decision-makers.

Many of these challenges, which can be turned into opportunities, are similar for Colombia, where community capacity development is underway, but further resources (long-term education and funding) need to be put towards training community monitors to steward their own watersheds, as what has been done in Canada.

Developing well-organized and planned projects to carry out these trainings is essential.

Canadian community-based monitoring experts, with Ambassador to Canada in Colombia and Comunica Project team.

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